Mental health and physical health
Being mentally healthy allows us to enjoy life, cope with everyday stress, have positive relationships, and work towards greater goals. Although mental health and physical health are very different, it does not make sense to think of them as independent from one another.
You may notice that when your physical health declines, as does your mental health, and vice versa. This is because psychological factors influence bodily processes, as well as lifestyle habits putting people at risk of certain physical illnesses.
For example, chronic pain conditions can be very demoralising and have higher incidences of depression in chronic pain populations. We can also think about conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or cold sores, that are strongly triggered by stress. Similarly, people suffering from depression can find it difficult to care for their physical health, for example, cooking healthy meals. Side effects of medications for depression and anxiety can sometimes cause weight gain/loss, higher cholesterol, and drowsiness.
Studies have shown that people suffering from mental disorders have a lower life expectancy than those who don’t, so it is important to take some simple steps to increase overall wellbeing.
Maintaining our overall health is very important as a preventative measure. This makes it easier to detect any problems sooner and seek the appropriate treatment. It can be easy to focus on improving mental health when this has become an issue, sometimes to the detriment of physical health.
What we can do to optimise holistic health
There are various steps we can take that are beneficial to both physical and mental health
- Physical exercise is good for the body, releases endorphins, and can be a social activity
- Regular, healthy meals
- Hydration. Drinking enough water can have a profound effect on both the body (for example prevention of headaches) and the mind (mood changes).
- Avoiding excess alcohol or other drug use
- Healthy sleeping patterns. Be aware of oversleeping or use of excess sleep as an unhealthy coping mechanism
- Create a plan to cope with deterioration in either mental or physical wellness. For example, writing down potential triggers and things you can do to counteract them.
- Regular health checks with your GP. Blood pressure and cholesterol tests, pap smears, checking any medications, as well as checking in with your mental health and requesting a GP Mental Health Care Plan if needed.
- Seeking further help should you need it.
These steps can also be taken if you are worried about a loved one, for example;
- Invite them for a walk.
- Offer to cook them a healthy meal, or cook together.
- Offer to drive them to the GP or psychologist.
- Be open for conversations about the impact of poor physical or mental health.
Help is available
At Psychology Melbourne, we have health psychologists that can support you to manage chronic illness, and optimise your mental health to aid recovery.